Food as Medicine: My Journey

basil, olive oil, tomatoes

 

Do you try to “eat healthy”?

What does that mean to you?

I have struggled with my weight for virtually my whole adult life. I’ve tried a lot of diet plans—low fat, low calorie, high protein/low carb, paleo, Mediterranean, blood type—you name it, I’ve probably tried it.

Each type of plan seems to have “science” and “research” behind it, claiming to demonstrate why this is the superior way of eating. After switching to diet cola, lite salad dressings, low-fat “heart healthy” substitutes of everything, I really just wound up heavier and less healthy, by any standard.

I know now that stress has a lot to do with it. When our hormones are wreaking havoc internally, and our adrenal glands suffer from actual fatigue trying to manage it all, simply changing what we eat is not enough.

Researchers have found that not only do people who live long, healthy lives in the Mediterranean eat well, they live well. They have work-life balance, they have connection with and support from friends and extended family, they walk and ride bicycles and stay active, they love and they play and they laugh.

So managing stress and having a balanced life is super important to good health. Having said that, I do think it’s important to try to eat well. Hippocrates, the father of medicine (for whom the Hippocratic oath is named) said way back in 431 B.C. something like “Let food by thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

But how? If you need specific information on nutrition, I can highly recommend registered dietician Amanda Perrin, of Peace of Nutrition, who shares my office suite. She is extremely knowledgeable.

I can only share with you what worked well for me. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make the changes I needed to make until I was ready. If we are not in the right frame of mind, it can feel like an ongoing uphill battle. I believe it’s not just a matter of “willpower.” We can’t bully and shame ourselves into making healthy choices, at least I can’t. But once I’m in the right mindset, it feels much more like going with the flow, making good choices to support myself—more self-love and less power struggle.

Once I was ready, I found that making the following changes helped me lose (30 pounds since the beginning of December), and I feel terrific.

1. I joined Weight Watchers. Not everyone needs to do this, of course, but the key thing about committing to a program like this, is that I am being honest about what I consume (they give you tools for tracking every single thing you put in your mouth), and I am holding myself accountable.

I used to have the attitude that if I went out to eat with a friend, I might allow myself to go ahead and enjoy French fries “just this once,” because “I hardly ever get fries.” But then the next day, I might go out for ice cream because “I hardly ever get ice cream.” And then the next day I might choose to sit outside and enjoy some wine with my neighbor—because it’s so lovely out, and we don’t see each other very often. And then a few days later, I might meet someone for beers and nachos, because I don’t get to see that person often enough either. So you see where I’m going with this. It seemed like I didn’t give myself permission to indulge all that often, but really it had become a lifestyle.

Now I track everything. I have a food budget. I can eat whatever I want, but if I choose something indulgent, then I have to give up a lot of other stuff. And I might feel hungry and miserable later. So I chose wisely!

And I have a built-in support group who can relate to what I’m doing and why it feels hard some days. I am blown away by how freely people share at the meetings. The whole program is geared to helping folks steer away from thinking only about food, and instead focusing on the whole person—including emotional factors.

2. I made a commitment to eat healthy.

I know people who follow programs like Weight Watchers, and they still make questionable choices. I know people who’ve lost weight by following a different type of program in which they eat a lot of packaged food and drink meal-replacement shakes. Again, it’s not my place to tell others what to do—maybe different strategies work better for different people. But for me, I refuse to lose weight by eating fake food.

Especially now that I’m on a food budget, I am very strategic about eating! I include lean protein at every meal. I have almost completely eliminated packaged foods and empty calories. I eat many more helpings of vegetables than I ever did before. I’m going for quality over quantity.

I like the idea of the slow food movement. I try to frequent farmer’s markets and support local growers. It just makes sense to me to eat whole food as close as we can to the way it naturally grows. And I think usually the quality of food is better than when something is picked early, treated so that it will last longer, and shipped long-distance.

As I made these changes to my diet, I noticed changes in my health almost immediately. My complexion improved. My bathroom habits got super healthy and regular. My sleep improved. My joint pain decreased. My energy level improved and stayed consistent throughout the day. And, as an added bonus, I’m losing weight.

3. I made a commitment to myself.

It takes time to eat healthy. I realized that I was giving lots of time away to clients, my kids, my projects. I was putting my health last, and it suffered.

I decided to reign in the busy-ness, and make eating a priority. I literally changed my work schedule and eliminated some of my extracurriculars so that I now have more time to shop for fresh food, complete all the necessary food prep, and sit down and eat with a fork at every meal.

I discovered that I love roasted vegetables.

I discovered that it takes a lot longer to wash, cut, cook and eat veggies than it does to drive through Arby’s and wolf something down on my way to something else.

I discovered that sometimes it’s a little bit sad to say no to things I would enjoy doing, either because they involve eating crap or drinking too much, or because I really need to hold sacred the time required to eat healthy and fit in some exercise.

But I’m also discovering that it’s totally worth it. At the end of November, I had a doctor visit that included blood work, which revealed that all my numbers were going in the wrong direction: bad cholesterol up, good cholesterol down and, for the first time, my blood sugar was a little high. Not to mention that my clothes were too tight. And I didn’t even recognize myself in photographs.

In a couple more months, I will go back to the doctor for my follow up. I can’t wait to see the blood work results, further confirming what I already know: I am healthier.

I’m in a good place mentally and emotionally. About 10 weeks into this program, I started exercising regularly. I have a good support group and lots of love in my life. And these are all very important factors.

But the biggest change I made was my eating habits. Eating healthy is a huge part of being healthy. When I lost 10% of my body weight, I was told that doing so decreases our chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 50%. My hope is that when I reach my goal weight—about 20 pounds from now—I will be able to get completely off my cholesterol medicine.

I had to have a long talk with myself about changing my path from one of declining health and reliance on pharmaceuticals, to one of doing everything I can to reclaim and maintain my good health as naturally as possible. Food is medicine!

If I can support you in your healthy journey, please let me know!

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth Posted on April 5, 2017

One Comment → “Food as Medicine: My Journey”


  1. Amanda Perrin
    4 months ago

    What a beautiful way of describing how different avenues to better health through food work differently for different people, with the most important factor being real change and commitment to one’s self! Congratulations on all the progress, Julie! THANK YOU for sharing! Food IS medicine!

    Reply

Leave a Reply